Saturday, March 15, 2014

2014 Libertarian Independent Mid-Term Revolution?

2014, the year the usual divide and conquer politics hit a snag:

Mr. Obama’s approval rating of 41 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll last week matched that of a New York Times/CBS News survey in February and represents one of the clearest reasons for Democratic malaise. Since the post-World War II era, that measurement has been one of the most accurate predictors of midterm results, and any number below 50 means trouble for the party that holds the White House


Obama Factor Adds to Fears of Democrats


Representative Steve Israel of New York, right, asked the White House political director for additional help after a recent loss. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Democrats are becoming increasingly alarmed about their midterm election fortunes amid President Obama’s sinking approval ratings, a loss in a special House election in Florida last week, and millions of dollars spent by Republican-aligned groups attacking the new health law.

The combination has led to uncharacteristic criticism of Mr. Obama and bitter complaints that his vaunted political organization has done little to help the party’s vulnerable congressional candidates.

The latest in a cascade of bad news came Friday when Scott Brown, a former senator from Massachusetts, announced an exploratory committee to challenge the incumbent Democrat in New Hampshire, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, and when the Republican-aligned “super PAC” American Crossroads said it would spend $600,000 to help his effort.

Earlier, another top-tier Republican recruit, Representative Cory Gardner, decided to challenge Senator Mark Udall of Colorado; the two races create unanticipated opportunities improving Republicans’ chances to take control of the Senate. 

No prominent Democrats predict their party will win back the House.


Speaker John A. Boehner, far left, held a swearing-in ceremony last week for Representative David Jolly, right. Mr. Jolly defeated a Democrat in a special election in a Florida district. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Interviews with more than two dozen Democratic members of Congress, state party officials and strategists revealed a new urgency about the need to address the party’s prospects.

One Democratic lawmaker, who asked not to be identified, said Mr. Obama was becoming “poisonous” to the party’s candidates. 

At the same time, Democrats are pressing senior aides to Mr. Obama for help from the political network.

“I’m a prolific fund-raiser, but I can’t compete with somebody who has got 50-some-odd billion dollars,” said Representative Joe Garcia of Florida, a vulnerable first-term member who has already faced more than $500,000 in negative TV ads from third-party conservative groups. 

“One hopes the cavalry is coming. One hopes the cavalry is coming.”

The gap is yawning. Outside Republican groups have spent about $40 million in this election cycle, compared with just $17 million by Democrats.

When two senior White House officials — Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director, and Phil Schiliro, the health care adviser — went to the Capitol late last month to address Senate Democrats about the Affordable Care Act, they were met with angry questions about why Mr. Obama’s well-funded advocacy group, Organizing for Action, was not airing commercials offering them cover on the health law.

Among those raising concerns was Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who also has a low-key style and warm relationship with Mr. Obama.

“They did not want to hear about health care enrollment,” one source familiar with the meeting said, describing “a high level of anxiety.”

After the loss in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which Mr. Obama carried in 2012, Representative Steve Israel of New York, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, asked the White House political director, David Simas, for additional help during a Wednesday meeting at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Responding to these concerns, several Democrats said Friday that Organizing for Action would cut back its fund-raising activities so the group would not be in competition with the candidates for donors. 

Katie Hogan, a spokeswoman for it, said, “We understand and expect that some of our more than 420,000 contributors will shift their focus to their local campaigns during the midterm season.”

Democrats also said that the White House would make Mr. Obama available for additional fund-raisers and that the president was starting to meet with small groups of the party’s largest contributors that could benefit the party’s own super PACS.

“Everyone is trying to send the signal: Don’t get ahead of yourself — 2016 is critical, but 2014 comes first,” said David Plouffe, the president’s former campaign manager.

Mr. Obama’s approval rating of 41 percent in a Wall Street Journal/NBC Poll last week matched that of a New York Times/CBS News survey in February and represents one of the clearest reasons for Democratic malaise. 

Since the post-World War II era, that measurement has been one of the most accurate predictors of midterm results, and any number below 50 means trouble for the party that holds the White House.

“The state of Democrats is very much tied to the state of the president, and in that regard, these are far from the best of times,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.

In addition to problems with the health law, the White House is losing the support of Democrats on key appointments such as Mr. Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and his choice to be surgeon general. 

Also last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, broke with the administration with a scalding criticism of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Historical trends over all also argue against the president’s party in a sixth year. 

In 1958, Republicans lost 48 seats in the House and 13 in the Senate; in 2006, Republicans lost 30 seats in the House and six in the Senate. 

In the past 50 years, only Bill Clinton in 1998, when his approval ratings were much higher than Mr. Obama’s today, did not drag down his party in a second midterm; Democrats picked up five House seats.

Republicans also seem to be benefiting from the argument — reinforced by advertising and by their media surrogates — that Mr. Obama has presided over an activist government that has overreached and proved incompetent.

Most Democrats up for re-election are trying to put some distance between themselves and the president, choosing surrogates such as Mr. Clinton to campaign for them, particularly in the South and parts of the West.

Asked whether Mr. Obama is a liability, Representative Ami Bera, Democrat of California, demurred. “We haven’t really focused much on the president,” he said. “We’re focused on Sacramento County and the folks that are there.”

Other Democrats are openly critical of the health care law in their advertisements. 

In one ad promoting Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, Democrat of Arizona, the narrator says she “blew the whistle on the disastrous health care website, calling it ‘stunning ineptitude,’ and worked to fix it.”

Democrats also face a contradiction: As woeful as they are about their prospects in 2014, they are buoyant about their chances for winning the White House in 2016. 

Polls show that Hillary Rodham Clinton has clear leads over possible Republican challengers.

Even though special elections are rarely reliable predictors for future elections, Alex Sink’s loss to David Jolly in Florida’s 13th District last week added to the Democrats’ negative story line. 

Frightening Democrats further, none of the Republican third-party money in the race came from the Koch brothers, the wealthy industrialists whose political groups have funded the bulk of the TV ads hammering Democrats this election cycle.

“Florida 13 doesn’t keep me up at night, but the aggregate Republican super PAC money makes me toss and turn,” Mr. Israel said.

This unease is also prompting Democrats to speak more candidly about what many see as the root cause for their political difficulties: the bungled unveiling of the health law, in particular the insurance website, and the White House’s failure to market the initiative effectively.

“The rollout left a bad taste in people’s mouth from Day 1, and it’s hard to create a new flavor now,” said Representative Steve Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee.

To stem losses, the Democratic National Committee is focusing on technology and data to give their candidates, as well as the state parties, the latest tools they will need to turn out the vote more effectively and efficiently. 

And Senate Democrats will try to make races about local issues rather than a referendum on Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama’s aides say he is not idly watching congressional Democrats drown in a Republican wave. 

By the end of June, the president will have attended 14 events for Democratic groups.

But on Capitol Hill, Democrats are furious that the same major contributors who enabled Mr. Obama and allied outside groups to raise over $1 billion for his re-election in 2012 are not rallying to ensure the president does not face a Congress controlled entirely by Republicans for his final two years.

Democrats say that the party needs more donors with the means of the California billionaire Thomas F. Steyer, who is helping candidates who support addressing climate change, to protect candidates who backed the health law.

“I’m not in the super PAC business, but we need somebody like a Steyer to get in the fight on the Affordable Care Act,” said Representative John Yarmuth of Kentucky. Democrats, he said, are “getting beat to death.”

C. Jay Robbins

Richmond VA 20 minutes ago
The Democrats do have governing strategy: European style social democracy. It is not what voters expected when they voted for Pres. Obama, who was widely hailed as the non-ideological "purple" candidate. A Bill Clinton with a better moral compass. The voters have seen the strategy. It has failed and they are going to try to fix the problem by voting the Democrats out.
I hope the Democrats continue to blame "big money". It means they don't get it and will suffer at the polls.

Doug Terry

Out beyond the Beltway, Maryland 26 minutes ago
This story shows the great difference between 2014 and 2010, when the Democrats, the President and the news media were virtually blind to what was happening with the Super-Pacs pouring hundreds of millions into influencing campaigns. The Dems are aware now, but the story makes clear that they haven't come close to coming up to a plan to equal or exceed the Republican money onslaught.

The White House has underestimated the opposition to the health care law from the start and vastly underestimated the ability of the Republicans to turn the public against it. There should have been 1 to 5 million citizen "ambassadors" for the law explaining it to others and helping people to enroll in insurance plans.

It is not enough any more to win elections. We have turned to a situation of constant warfare against the party in power. The Republicans have decided that NO Democrat can ever be a legitimate occupant of the White House and they set out to prove that before Obama first took the oath of office in 2009 with a private meeting they held in Annapolis, Md., to outline a strategy to undermine and defeat the new president. Their plan is well on track (next up: impeachment in 2015).

Unless the Dems up their game, the Republicans will run circles around them with hundreds of millions in outside money and constant negative attacks. This is a new game and the Dems are stuck in the old one.


is a trusted commenter MN 28 minutes ago
It's not "the millions spent attacking the health law"; it's the health law itself, which maintains the status quo by transferring wealth to the health care and insurance industries, primarily from working middle class Americans who don't qualify for taxpayer subsidies. What is needed is to reduce the exorbitant costs of medical tests and procedures as illustrated in the excellent recent NYT articles and which have been ignored by politicians, in order to reduce the %GDP we spend on health care.


California 37 minutes ago

It would help if Democrats had a governing strategy and the will to implement it. Lacking that, its a popularity contest that typically goes to whomever has the most money and self-confidence. I think they'll get what they deserve, which unfortunately means that we the people will get less of what we deserve. Our government is broken in some pretty fundamental ways - the Democrats could build a great message around some of them - election reform, budget & tax reform, immigration reform, etc. Of course, then they would have to actually fight for those things to be credible.

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